welcome to bbc news, broadcasting to viewers in north america and around the globe. my name is mike embley. our top stories — president trump defends his decision to fire the director of the fbi, saying he'd lost confidence in james comey. why did you fire him? because he wasn't doing a good job, very simply. he was not doing a good job. nearly a0 dead in more than a month of demonstrations. we're out on the streets in the midst of the protests in venezuela. as forces backed by the us drive more of the so—called islamic state extremists from their strongholds, we talk to the foreign fighters trying to get back to europe. hello. president trump has defended his
hugely controversial decision to fire the head of the fbi, saying james comey had not been doing a good job and his replacement would do a "far better" one. white house officials have been suggesting the president had lost confidence in mr comey over the past several months. he'd been leading an fbi investigation into links between the trump campaign team and russia. here's our north america editor, jon sopel. this is a fox news alert. fbi directorjames comey has been fired by the president of the united states. the term breaking news is bandied around with abandon. last night, it was justified. because, at fbi offices, the first they knew that their director had been fired was when it flashed up on their tv screens. and james comey, who was in los angeles addressing staff, knew nothing about it either until an aide handed him a note and the letter sent by president trump was brutal. at least they left him the governmentjet
to fly back to the east coast, a private citizen, a turbulent career cut short. and today the president was unrepentant. reporter: why did you fire director comey? because he wasn't doing a good job, very simply. he was not doing a good job. james comey, the 68" tall fbi director, was the person who confirmed in bombshell testimony in march that the trump campaign was under investigation for its links to russia during the election. the fbi, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. the president has railed consistently that it's fake news and there has been no improper contact. last night, he fired the man heading the inquiry. it's caused fury and dismay among some republicans and all democrats. we know director comey was leading an investigation in whether the trump campaign colluded with the russians, a serious offence.
were those investigations getting too close to home for the president? the dismissal of director comey establishes a very troubling pattern. and democrats have wasted no time in drawing parallels with the dark days of the nixon presidency, when richard nixon, in 1973, fired the special prosecutor investigating him over the break—in at the watergate building. it was known as the saturday night massacre. a year later, nixon would resign. for special prosecutor then, insert fbi director today. it was brazen. one of the most staggering, stunning acts of a president compromising an investigation since the saturday night massacre involving richard nixon. in fact, it was a nixonian act and reminds us all about the importance of the rule of law, which evidently donald trump does not respect.
but the white house is seeking to persuade people that the decision to fire comey had nothing to do with russia or the fbi investigation. it was time for a fresh start at the fbi. and i think the president did, as he's done in so many other cases, he took decisive action, he provided strong leadership and to act on the recommendation of the deputy attorney general. the white house says the loss of confidence stems from james comey‘s investigation into hillary clinton's use of a private e—mail server from when she was secretary of state. i made a mistake using a private e—mail. he decided lastjuly there would be no prosecution, just a rap on the knuckles. republicans were furious. then, stunningly, he reopened his inquiry 11 days before polling. it took guts for director comey to make the move that he made. but if it really is all about the way the fbi conducted the hillary clinton investigation, why sack him now?
why this intervention? why not do it when donald trump first came to office? and how do you reconcile it with the praise that was heaped upon james comey? whatever, it's left the fbi feeling very sore about the way their director's been treated. and into the washington maelstrom who should arrive today for his first visit to see the trump administration? why, none other than sergey lavrov, the russian foreign minister, injokey mood. was he fired? you are kidding! he then went to meet donald trump at the white house but curiously for the camera—loving president, the press was kept away. this feels like house of cards on steroids. the russian president has been talking. he said the sacking of james comey will have no effect on relations between his country and
the united states. he was interviewed by the foreign correspondent for cbs news just before playing an amateur ice hockey game in sochi on wednesday. how will the firing of james game in sochi on wednesday. how will the firing ofjames comey game in sochi on wednesday. how will the firing of james comey affect us american relations? translation: there will be no effect. your question seems funny for me. we have nothing to do with it. president trump is acting in accordance with his law and the constitution. what about us? why ask? you see, i am about us? why ask? you see, i am about to play hockey. about us? why ask? you see, i am about to play hockeylj about us? why ask? you see, i am about to play hockey. i will be here. i will be watching. thank you
very much. and just when you thought it could not get any more surreal... let's speak to laura bicker in washington. add that to the site today of russian diplomats at the state department in the white house in the oval offers a joking about the sacking of the fbi director.m oval offers a joking about the sacking of the fbi director. it gets weird. the optics were not good for the white house. add that to the fa ct the white house. add that to the fact that no us media were allowed inside that meeting with the russian foreign ambassador. for any footage that we have seen, we have relied on russian media to get it. so when it came to the question of the firing of the man who was in charge of leading an investigation into alleged collusion between russia and the trump campaign, add to that you have that meeting today you have vladimir putin saying that he has
nothing to do with it. remember, donald trump wants to push aside this russian investigation. a number of media are reporting this evening that his frustration over the last few months and his inability to get rid of this russia story has seemed to frustrate the president, according to those closest to him speaking on condition of anonymity at to various news agencies. when it comes to stories, this one will not go away but the question is if he really did want it to go away and he thought the james comey would do it, he has been sadly mistaken. reports also the james comey had asked the justice department for more resources to investigate the link and then thejustice department fired him. mr comey has been commenting? in the last 30 minutes we have been given a letter the james comey sent to his colleagues at the fbi. i will read you some of
it. it says he will not spend time on the decision of the way was executed. he hopes you won't either. it is done and i will be fine although i will miss you and the miss you when the mission deeply. in times of turbulence the american people should see the fbi as a rock of competence honesty and independence. the nature and the quality of the fbi and the people within it make it that rock for the american people. he is not reflecting too deeply or try not to reflecting too deeply or try not to reflect too deeply on the manner of him being fired, but it does sound as if he will miss his career dearly. when it comes to those us media reports, the ones that we have been hearing, james comey asked for further resources to investigate the hacking, the department ofjustice has strenuously denied that that request came to them. so one side says one thing and the other says
another. we are almost out of time but an unusual move from the senate senate intelligence committee? yes. they have subpoenaed michael flynn who was fired for lying about his phone calls with the russian ambassador. they are asking for documents relating to his business dealings, his contacts in russia. he seems to be at the centre of the senate intelligence committee investigation and asking for it now may be significant. it is a sign that the intelligence committee is forging ahead with its investigation. two more people have been killed in another day of anti—government protests across venezuela — bringing the number of dead close to a0. it's been more than a month of near—daily demonstrations. government supporters held their own demonstration — salsa dancing and waving pictures of the late former socialist president hugo chavez, who they revere. vladimir hernandez is in caracas. it has been over a month of protests
here in venezuela. people here are asking for fresh elections but this is an economy in crisis. the inflation rate could have 700% before the end of the year and the economy is crashing. translation: before the end of the year and the economy is crashing. translationzlj am here today protesting against the policies of the government of the president. it is his fault, the crisis we are in. translation: we need to recover the freedom of this country and our fundamental human rights. i am here asking the government to stop killing our students. their deaths are a tragedy. i am protesting to recover the country i grew up in. to have food, security and the many rights that we have lost. this is one of
many demonstrations that we have seenin many demonstrations that we have seen in venezuela for at least five weeks. this is not the only one happening today. there is another demonstration by pro—government supporters on the other side of town. they think these demonstrations are a coup against the government. for people like these, they think it is the government who should listen to them. stay with us on bbc news. still to come — they left the west to fight for islamic state, but as the group loses ground in syria, europe doesn't want them back. so what next for these is defectors? the pope was shot and the pope will live. that was the essence of the appalling news
from rome this afternoon. terrorism has come to the vatican. the man they called the butcher of lyon, klaus barbie, went on trial today in the french town where he was the gestapo chief in the second world war. winnie mandela never looked like a woman sentenced to six years injail. the judge told her there was no indication she felt even the slightest remorse. the chinese government has called for an all—out effort to help victims of a powerful earthquake, the worst to hit the country for 30 years. the computer deep blue has tonight triumphed over the world chess champion, gary kasparov. it is the first time a machine has defeated a reigning world champion. america's first legal same—sex marriages have been taking place in massachusetts. god bless america! this is bbc news. the latest headlines:
president trump has defended his decision to sack the head of the fbi. the white house said the president had been considering firing james comey since taking office. more on this now, and our north america correspondent rajini vaidya nathan has been at capitol hill, gauging reaction from both sides of the political spectrum. let's have a listen, starting with an interview she did with democratic party senator ben cardin. senator, what was your reaction, the moment you heard the president had fired james comey? i was shocked. i felt that the president had crossed the line, but here you have an active investigation into criminal matters involving people close to the president of the united states, and the president dismisses the person in charge of that investigation. to me that crosses the line. it is something that should not happen in our country, and really calls into question whether the department ofjustice can do an adequate criminal investigation. there is no mention
in the white house's rationale of russia. they say it is because of the way that james comey handled the clinton e—mail investigation. the way that james comey handled the clinton e-mail investigation. well, we know that russia has been very much engaged in this country. there was just much engaged in this country. there wasjust some much engaged in this country. there was just some subpoenas issued involving some of mr trump's associates in regards to that probe. we know that russia has been engaged not only in the united states but engaged in european countries to try and bring down a democratic, free elections. so we know that this involves russia, and we need to know what they are doing and how they are operating in what contact they have in the united states, in order to protect ourselves. now, while some republicans have criticised comey‘s sacking, they don't support the idea ofan
sacking, they don't support the idea of an independent prosecutor or a commission, largely they have fallen along party lines, with most republican senators i have spoken to today supporting the president's actions, even those who are big critics of him, such as senator lindsey graham, who has been an outspoken critic of mr trump. we need more leadership of the fbi. it is kind of odd that we are worried about it when both parties at different times want them removed. let me ask you about this, did russia have an impact, according to your view? not according to the latter. let me tell you about russia. russia interfered in our election. i want to punish russia. i'm100% election. i want to punish russia. i'm ioo% convinced that they interviewed and to undermine the 2016 election, that it was russia intelligence services that hacked into the dnc and podesta, but they created discord and i want to punish russia. i have yet to see evidence of collusion between the trump campaign and the russians but we need to keep looking until we can find out one way or the other. well, what happens next? the democratic senator mark warner, who sits on the democratic intelligence committee, has invited james comey to appear before a closed—door session next
week to explain a bit more about why he thinks this all happens. we don't know at the moment whether or not mr comey has accepted the invitation. let's speak to trump supporter mica mosbacher. she is a former finance chair for the republican national committee, and has held senior positions on the last five presidential campaigns. she is in washington. fairto fair to say you are a trump support. iam sure fair to say you are a trump support. i am sure you think it is right to sack comey. you know that before the last election just after it many democrats would have agreed with you, but why now? well, part of it is again political. the liberal democrats haven't let go. they still need group therapy to face the fact that they have lost. but let me say that they have lost. but let me say that it has been brewing for some time, in terms of what the fate of comey it was, partly because of last week's testimony in front of congress, and the fact that comey
made several misleading statements, leading to an unprecedented memo by fbi contradicting what comey said. that was one thing that put a nail in the proverbial coughlan. but other things also played into this. you know, trump is a businessman, and he is very methodical about his decisions. but if you look back at lastjuly, when the investigation into the hillary clinton mishandling of classified information on a personal server all began, she was interviewed july for the weekend, on saturday, and three days later, or on tuesday, director of comey came out and said that she had been exonerated —— fourth. this is absolutely unheard of for an fbi director to insert himself into an investigation in that fashion, and i spoke with a veteran fbi agent today who said that there were several things that happened during that time. first of all, it takes months
to investigate issue, such as the one facing hillary clinton. but in a way, forgive me, in a way we can leave what happened with hillary clinton on one side. that is clearly not why mr comey was sacked, because mrtrump had not why mr comey was sacked, because mr trump had heaped praise on mr comey. he had... his confidence, though, was eroding. all right, but given that, you are clearly a smart operator. you know how that place works. what we have is the guy running an investigation removed from it by the people with the most to lose from that investigation. you must know how bad that looks. it screams cover—up, doesn't it?m doesn't. what screams cover—up is the fact that it was clear that the clinton investigation was a sham from the beginning. fbi agents that i have spoken with in the past, and including today, have all said that it demoralised the fbi. they felt that their hands were handcuffed, and they didn't really have the opportunity to investigate this
thoroughly, to bring it to a fair, unbiased conclusion. it became apparent to trump that the fbi and doj were becoming politicised, and he could no longer trust those individuals. what took him so long was that he did not have a deputy director until rose and —— rosenstein was confirmed, it was a 20 year veteran of the doj, and trump did not have the input he needed to make a clear decision, so he gave comey the benefit of the doubt. but quite simply, at that point, he recognised that he has an institution in the united states that was the most respected institution, the fbi, with a dedicated group of men and women, who are now completely the laughing stock of the united states, and are making a sham of ourjustice system. and that is what the president recognised. very much obliged to you. sounds like we will be coming
back to this one. thank you very much indeed. in syria, us—backed forces have made significant gains as they prepare an assault on so—called islamic state's last major stronghold, raqqa. they have just recaptured the city of tabqa from is, and retaken a nearby dam, after weeks of fighting. as the extremists lose ground, large numbers of foreign fighters are trying to get back to europe. dozens a re currently being held in northern syria. the bbc has gained exclusive access to some of them, including one british fighter. from northern aleppo, our middle east correspondent quentin sommerville and cameraman fred scott sent this report. the free syrian army are driving out is. here in northern syria, the so—called islamic state is collapsing. but what happens to its believers and converts, those that abandoned europe to live under the caliphate? these camps are for civilians, the most desperate. but lurking here is a threat, is fighters living among them. the camps here in northern syria are being overwhelmed. people are fleeing fighting on a number of fronts, and this is before the big attack on the is de facto capital,
raqqa. is fighters and their families are trying to get out. some are trying to defect. many of them are being captured here, before they even make it to the border with turkey. we were given exclusive access to one jail holding european is fighters. they are a threat, and distrusted, so are heavily guarded by the al shamir front. these are the personal belongings of is prisoners and defectors. hundreds have been captured, including whole families back to europe. mohammad atalla and his wife left nieminen france to join the islamic state. they had a baby while in raqqa.
he says he doesn't hate france, and wants to return. translation: a friend came and told me i should leave and join the islamic state. i let him brainwash me. i was weak, and ifollowed him. life under the islamic state in syria is difficult. there is a lot of bombing. it's not a life we wish on anyone. translation: i had a normal life in france. i was well, i was happy. i had hobbies. i was in school. it had nothing to do with here. we live in fear. europe doesn't want them back, and the fighters who control here don't want them to stay. translation: they are a burden on us. there is a huge number of defectors here in northern countryside, and we don't have the ability to look after them. if we got more help from their countries in europe, then many more is members would defect and give themselves up. and the bbc spoke to a british man inside syria, stefan aristidou, who left for raqqa two years ago. despite joining is willingly,
he now appealed for rescue. he said... he has since escaped to turkey, where he is being held injail. a people smuggler we met was helping stefan aristidou escape. he says is has set traps for those fleeing. translation: the number defecting is increasing a lot, but their main problem is is sleeper cells pretending to be smugglers. they make contact with members trying to leave, and hand them over to is security officials. is prisons are full of people who tried to defect. the scale of the problem is enormous. we visited three different prisons, all holding is fighters from across the globe. they are battle—hardened. this man came from palestine. translation: there was a kind of compulsion for foreign fighters to go to the front line. "where? we asked. "it's not your business," we were told. so we fought, and we didn't ask questions. the caliphate is in ruins
and its converts are lost. the free syrian army can't hold them much longer, so the dangerous and the unwanted from is increasingly have nowhere to go, except to come home. quentin sommerville, bbc news, northern aleppo. thank you for watching. hello there. after the dry weather that we have been experiencing for days and weeks now, there is finally a change on the way, courtesy of these lumps of cloud, which have been bringing some quite vicious thunderstorms across spain and portugal, now on the march northwards. so many of us will see some showery rain and perhaps some thunderstorms over the next couple of days, and with that, a feed of warm, southerly winds, some humid air moving in our direction for the end of the week. so yes, those temperatures climbing. quite a muggy feel to the weather, with the risk of some thunderstorms. in fact, there could be the odd flash of lightning as some showers approach the far south
through the first part of thursday morning. so, down towards the south coast, one or two showers to start the day. further north, for the likes of london, east anglia, should be a fine and sunny start. could be one or two thundery showers across the channel islands, into the south—west of england. not expecting huge amounts of rain at this stage, but could just be a few sprinkles, and the odd flash of lightning overhead, some of that getting into the south of wales. but north wales, the west midlands, north—west england, starting the day with some sunshine, and actually a relatively chilly start to the day here. a fine start for northern ireland and much of scotland, but some extra cloud across caithness and sutherland, fringing into parts of aberdeenshire, certainly across the northern isles, where there will be the odd spot of rain. much of northern england seeing some fine weather, with some sunshine to start off the day. now, as we go through the day, there will be a lot of dry weather once again. some spells of sunshine, but we will see this very patchy, showery rain moving its way northwards, and then into the afternoon the chance
that we could spark off some really quite vicious downpours and thunderstorms. not everywhere, but if you catch one, well, you will know about it, a lot of rain in a short space of time. temperatures in the south up as high as 22, maybe 23 degrees. a little bit cooler, still, further north. but, as we go through thursday night into the early hours of friday, that humid air continues to trundle northwards. some hit—and—miss, showery rain, and it will be a much, much less chilly night than we have had recently. eight to 13 degrees, those are the minimum temperatures. friday, well, a bit of a mishmash, really. yes, there will be some spells of sunshine. there will also be some of the showers drifting northwards. still the potential for the odd rumble of thunder, flash of lightning, and still feeling pretty humid for many. 19 degrees there in london, something cooler holding on across the far north of scotland. saturday another fairly humid and showery day, some sunny spells between the downpours. but then, through saturday night, a change. a weather front moves its way in. behind that, some fresher air pushing in from the west. so temperatures on sunday
will be a little bit lower. a fresher feel to the weather, with a mix of sunshine and showers. this is bbc news. the headlines — president trump has defended his decision to fire the director of the fbi. mr trump said he'd lost confidence injames comey — and the bureau needed new leadership. democrats say the move was linked to the fbi's own investigation into alleged collusion between russia and the trump campaign. two more people have been killed in another day of anti—government protests across venezuela, bringing the number of dead close to a0 in over a month. young protestors in caracas threw bottles at soldiers firing tear gas and water cannon. government supporters held their own demonstration. the bbc has gained exclusive access to foreign fighters in syria, who are trying to get back to europe, as so—called islamic state extremists continue to lose ground. after weeks of fighting. us backed forces are preparing an assault on the group's last major stronghold of raqqa. now on bbc news — it's time for hardtalk. hello, welcome to hardtalk.